After what seemed like an unfavorable draw that almost made certain that Arsenal would finish second in the group stages, they set out in their first Champions League group match against Dinamo Zagreb at the emirates with an eye on another game. They would be travelling to the Stamford Bridge the following weekend to face the defending champions of the premier league.
A rudiment analysis of both teams and a simple scale of importance would show that the game against Chelsea was tougher given their status and team strength. Predictably, Arsene Wenger decided to rest his big legs for the game against Chelsea and fielded several second choice players who, ordinarily, should be able to do the business against Dinamo Zagreb. The result? Arsenal lost 2-1 and even went on to lose the game against Chelsea.
Similarly, after eventful weeks of taking apart teams like Manchester United, Everton and Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger saw the game against Sheffield Wednesday in a less-preferred competition as an opportunity to once again rest his key players. This, in itself, is not a terrible idea especially given the fact that Sheffield Wednesday is a club that plays in the championship and Arsenal’s next games includes a tricky trip to Wales to face Swansea City and a return leg trip to Munich where they would take on Bayern.
The result of that game? An embarrassing 3-0 defeat.
From all of that, one thing is constant – Arsenal looks like a shadow of themselves whenever they are not playing with the regulars and don”t seem to know how to win- an indication of how poor the bench is. And while a lot of people have come up to say the players fielded against Sheffield were internationals who should hold their own against even tougher clubs, they must also realize that the fact that they didn’t was a clear indication of how much they lack in quality at the moment.
As if to clear any doubts, the likes of Debuchy, Gibbs and Flamini showed why they have spent more time on the bench than on the field of play this season ever since they recovered from the injuries that kept them out of action.
A poor bench equals no squad depth and the implication of that is key players will have to play every time the team needs a result regardless of the level or quality of opposition. More games for key players will ultimately result into fatigue, loss of form and the much dreaded injuries which is bad for any team.
Speaking of injuries, it is also beginning to look like old times for Arsenal again. It started with Aaron Ramsey in the game against Bayern Munich and then Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott followed in the game against Sheffield Wednesday.
For many seasons, injury to key players at critical periods has been the bane of Arsenal’s problems. Arsenal were so hard hit that Wenger’s first summer signing in 2014 was Shad Forsythe, a fitness coach who was instrumental in Germany’s triumph at the World Cup in Brazil. It must have been the frustration of leading the Premier League table for 128 days – more than any other team – the season before and still failing to win the title as a result of unending injuries that must have triggered Wenger to do so.
Injuries are not exclusive to Arsenal alone but they have been incredibly unfortunate. And to further compound their woes, the issue of squad depth aforementioned makes the absence of any first team player sorely felt.
Its still a relatively new season and after 10 games played, Arsenal have showed that they have a good eleven that can win the league. Unfortunately, history has shown that a good eleven is not all that it is to win the Premier League title. With the high number of games English clubs have to play, the importance of a fairly large squad that affords players the time to rest wihtout hurting the team cannot be over-emphasized.
There are lots of tell tale signs to pick from the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and it is hoped that they haven’t gone unnoticed otherwise, it could just be another ‘nearly’ season for Arsenal.
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